Does EU Regulation [EC]261/2004 cover snow disruption?

Gatwick South Terminal international arrivals ...
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If you follow my Twitter stream, you’ll have heard all about the recent travel problems we had on our recent trip to Malta. It started on our way out, where we were deboarded from a RyanAir flight which couldn’t take off from Luton because of the snow. After a few hours we were given our luggage back and told that we were pretty much on our own in terms of sorting our alternative travel arrangements. We could always get a refund on the flight, but being stuck in an airport between home and your destination isn’t all it’s cracked out to be (with 2 3-month old babies and a 3-year old may I add). Eventually I found an alternative flight from Bristol, bought new tickets (as RyanAir’s website wouldn’t let me transfer the flight) and we caught a combination of buses, trains and taxis to get from Luton to Bristol. I won’t bore you with all the attempts we made to speak to a RyanAir representative, but let’s just say it was akin to trying to build a snowman in summer in Dubai.

Our return flight was just as eventful, We checked in for our FlyBe flight in Gatwick, only to be told 7 hours later that it was cancelled. This time at least there was a FlyBe desk where they recommended we book a flight with an alternative airline, so we eventually got home with Aer Arann from London City; again carting 3 kids, a pram and a ton of luggage all over town. Again, I’m leaving out all the aggravation and frustration of the experience to focus on the specifics.

So, EU Regulation 261/2004 covers passenger rights and deals with issues around flight cancellations, delays and other issues. The bit that interests us in this case is specifically around cancellation of flights. The EU directive speaks of 2 rights that passengers have. They have a right to a choice of a refund, re-routing to the destination at the next possible date, or rerouting to the destination at a later date. They also have a right to claim for compensation based on a table of values. The right for compensation is waived if the cancellation is due to exceptional circumstances, which snow disruption is quite clearly an example of. However, my understanding is that the former right, that of refund or rerouting is still covered by the Directive, and the airline is responsible for communication, accommodation and re-routing costs to get the passenger to their destination.

With this in mind, I’m currently writing to both FlyBe and RyanAir with details of our travel disruption and the additional cost we incurred to get to our destination. What do you think? Will they honour EC Regulation 261/2004, or will I have to escalate to the Air Transport User’s Council?


  1. Have you had a response from the airlines, or even a satisfactory resolution??? I undertake some research on the Air Passengers Regulation at the moment (as part a Consumer Law module at uni), hence my interest!


  2. I actually got a positive response from the companies. They sent me an apology and fully reimbursed all my expenses. It’s nice to see that the system works sometimes


  3. Hi!
    I found you blog after googling “EC 261”. I know you wrote this almost a year ago, but the same thing just happened to me with Air France: they cancelled my flight last Friday (24th December) from Paris Orly to Nice (where I was going to celebrate Christmas with my family), and left all the passengers on their own, with no information and with company representatives refusing to talk to us. I was in the boarding zone already when I received a text message “you flight is cancelled – thank you for you understanding”, with no reason, no instruction. (Well, it had been snowing a little the night before, so they used this as an excuse when I called them yesterday, but most of the previous flights to Nice, and all the following actually took off this day.).
    I had to take a taxi from the airport to one of Paris train’s stations (25 euros), and then a high-speed train from Paris to Nice (126 euros) to get to my final destination. I also had to spend 16 euros to have lunch in the train (at a time where I should have been having lunch for free with my grandparents and family). I will have a refund on the flight (78 euros) but this leaves 89 euros that I would like Air France to pay since they offered no assistance, no information, no re-routing alternatives. I am a student, this is a lot for me (and I guess this is pretty much nothing for them!). If I had not taken the train, I would have ended up spending Christmas Eve alone in my student room…

    Now, I get to my question: what did you exactly write to Ryanair and Flybe? I told Air France about the EC 261 regulation over the phone, but they told me that it “did not apply at all” “because of the snow” (I reiterate: there was no snow anymore, almost all flights to my destination – which were full, unfortunately – took off this day, and 95% of the flights to all the other destinations also did take off… but I can’t prove it so just let’s assume that it was snowing…). I am sure this regulation in fact applies, and want to write them a letter with all my receipts (taxi, train, train restaurant) and ask for my 89 euros.

    I would really appreciate if you could tell me which articles from EC 261 and which arguments you used in your letters to the airlines, and how you formulated it… If you could send me some extracts from the actual letters, it would be great!

    Many thanks in advance,

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